WASHINGTON, August 1, 2015 – When school starts next month, the older kids in the family can no longer watch the little ones. What are you going to do?
Having someone else watch little Sally and Jimmy during the day is sometimes required, because we have to work; for others handing the day-to-day care over is what we want. We want to continue to be able to work.
Whether from need or want, a parent must completely and thoroughly investigate the daycare facility, the owners and their staff.
This is not a “maybe.” This is not asking three-or-four references they provide if its a good place. This is being thorough.
Standards in the childcare arena in many states have improved over the years. Horror stories are fewer, thank goodness.
Nonetheless, all it takes is one tragedy, yours, and the overall improvements that have been made in many facilities will not matter. This is now your homework, mom and dad, and you need to invest as much time as it takes, because it is the single most important thing on your plate right now.
In 2012, in Bristow, Va., a baby girl died at an in-home day care facility. Two adults were looking after 23 children; six were less than 1 year old. At the time of this incident, coincidentally, childcare advocates and experts from across the country were in Washington, D.C., not far from where this happened.
The group having the conference, Child Care Aware, was trying to get legislators to recognize the dangers of under-regulated, in-home daycare. The Bristow incident gave this group’s work a great deal of press, and, of course, they issued a report.
They said that nearly 15 percent of all children in childcare are taken care of in “in-home” facilities. These facilities are not necessarily licensed, nor are there standards about what is safe, or what a “healthy” childcare home should be.
They are often less expensive than the commercial day care.
CCA said that some states do not inspect sites, do not require any training, including CPR, do not require background checks, do not check the sex offender registry and do not examine the child-to-adult ratio.
CCA said Virginia ranked among the worst states for oversight.
Then, Virginia law did not require licensing until a provider had taken in seven children who were not related to them.
Virginia has since changed its law, now requiring a license if the provider takes in more than four children. Virginia’s law also now requires fingerprint background checks of daycare providers, unless the organization has a religious exemption.
Virginia providers who do not have a license are required to notify parents of that fact.
These changes came following the 2014 death of a 1-year old boy in Midlothian, Va., where a house fire broke out at an unlicensed, in-home daycare facility.
CCA said Maryland and the District were much better, both ranking in the top 10. Nonetheless, in the District, providers did not have to undergo background checks or checks with sex offender registries. Maryland providers then, and still in 2015, are allowed to care for up to eight children at a time.
The horror stories are, horrible. From 2007-2012, in Missouri, 54 babies died in in-home facilities where providers did not know safe sleep procedures.
Last summer, three infants died in the care of licensed daycare centers in Staten Island, the Bronx and in Queens, N.Y. This area of New York has 68 inspectors, responsible for 11,500 facilities.
Using Virginia as an example for daycare options, here is an overview:
Not all child daycare programs are required to be licensed. A child daycare provider assumes responsibility for the “supervision, protection, and wellbeing of a child under the age of 13 for less than a twenty-four-hour period.”
There are two types of child daycare programs in Virginia: out-of-home care (center-based) and in-home care (family-based) in a private home.
Licensed programs are inspected at least twice per year. They have requirements for background checks, training, orientation, and health and safety.
Regulated facilities, which are not licensed, are required to be inspected before “certification” and then every two years. The individuals running these facilities and their employees must complete background checks and the facilities must meet certain health and safety standards.
In Virginia, there are exempt situations from licensure and registration, mostly for organizations that provide athletic, musical or educational activities.
There are many articles, websites and resources that describe what to look for when choosing a daycare center. The information is “out there” to be seen and learned.
There is simply no excuse for placing a child in a bad or questionable facility. There is too much at stake.
You should personally check on licensing, and on all individuals in the facility. The facility may produce a license. Check anyway. Call the state licensing agency – the license could be forged, revoked or suspended.
Call local police with the names of all of the facility people and ask about criminal or sex-offender records.
Thus, after you check on the “hard” facts, licensing, backgrounds, child-to-adult ratios, and whether there are complaints or citations for health and sanitation, here is a summary of much of the intelligence gleaned from those articles and from the “help” websites devoted to this topic.
Check out the facility, in person. Flush the toilets and look for things you find dangerous to your child.
- Are there baby-gates?
- Are doors to other areas closed?
- Are cleaners and other potentially toxic materials locked away?
- Are there guns in the home?
- Is the home “baby-proofed” the way you do so in your home?
- Does the facility smell and appear clean? Look behind the toilet and the stove and inside the refrigerator.
- How does the staff interact with the children?
- Are they on the floor playing with the infants, or leaving them in cribs?
- Are they engaging in drawing and music and reading with the children, or directing them to the television?
- What are the provider’s philosophies on punishment?
- What meals and snacks are provided or do you need to bring your child’s food?
- Does the kitchen look and smell clean and sanitary?
- Does the facility provide structure that the children can lock into?
- Does a routine day include physical activity, mental stimulation, quiet time, group activity encouraging social engagement, and meal and snack-time?
- How does the provider handle emergencies?
- Does the provider have good liability insurance? Can they provide a statement of claims from their insurer?
- Is there a strict “sick child” policy?
- Does the provider require all children to have current immunizations?
- If a child is sick or hurt and needs to go to the hospital, will someone from the daycare staff accompany the child until you can get there? If so, is there enough coverage left to keep the other children safe?
Are there trips to parks or museums?
- If so, who is driving?
- Is there automobile insurance?
- Can you go on these trips?
- Are you allowed to “drop in” whenever you would like?
Again, there are hundreds of websites, articles and local organizations that can be used as resources to check out a facility – these are just some basic tips to get you started.
After you have made your choice, do one more thing. Ask for the names and telephone numbers of at least three other families who have used the facility, and then call them and have a good conversation.
But beware, those recommendations are going to be from people the provider has a good relationship with, not someone dissatisfied. Don’t just listen, but ask questions and hear what they are saying, even when they don’t respond.
Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia and has been practicing since 1980. He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website.
His new book “Who Will Pay My Auto Accident Bills?, The Most Comprehensive Nationwide Auto Accident Resolution Book, Ever” can be reviewed on http://www.completeaccidentbook.com and can be ordered there, or obtained directly on Amazon: Click here to order
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